Amidst reports that China was monitoring the Malabar naval exercises, involving the Indian and U.S. Navies, besides the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) in the Bay of Bengal, a senior U.S. Navy official on Saturday said the exercise was “not directly aimed at China.”
Replying to a query by a team of visiting journalists on Chinese’ objection to Japan’s participation in the exercise, Rear Admiral Roy J. Kelly, Commander of the Carrier Strike Group 12 said, “That's Chinese’ issue. Nothing that we are doing in any part of this exercise or any of our interoperability is aimed directly at China. We are trying to improve our relationships and improve our abilities to operate together as military forces.”
Maintaining that the ongoing Malabar some 180 nautical miles off the Chennai coast was “not aimed at particular country or any particular operation,” he said that the exercise was to allow all countries to work together and to feel comfortable with each other “in ensuring the freedom of navigation and the freedom of commerce that flow around the world.”
A recent write-up, which appeared China’s state-run news agency Xinhua observed that Washington was “pushing” for making the Indo-U.S. bilateral exercise, with special invitees every year, into a trilateral, making Japan as a permanent participant.
As for Japan’s participation in the exercise, he said though Malabar was primarily bilateral since 1992, a number of countries had joined along the line. “This is the fourth time JMSDF has joined us [in the exercise] and as a result, I think it is going to be a trilateral exercise each year all three (sic),” he said.
Also onboard the 1,00,000-tonne weighing aircraft-carrier was a team of eight officers and 10 sailors of the Indian Navy, who were observing the functioning of the their American counterparts. “Our visit here helped in understanding how the U.S. Navy responds to situations and how to improve skills on both sides,” said Captain Anil Kumar, Director of Aircraft-Carrier Projects at the Indian Naval Headquarters.
All the three maritime forces were training in air defence, anti-submarine warfare, surface search with F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft and Seahawk helicopters, surveillance with P-8A and Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft. Nuclear-powered submarine USS City of Corpus Christi and kilo-class INS Sindhudvaj were also involved in the training.
The 19th edition of ongoing exercise with U.S.’ USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Normandy, USS Forth Wort, Indian Navy’s INS Shivalik, INS Betwa, INS Ranvijay, INS Shakti and JMSDF’s FS Fuyuzuk would conclude on October 19.